This recipe for Thai Basil Pesto and Chili Garlic Shrimp has quite an anecdotal story behind it. Before I share the actual steps and ingredients, here’s the backstory.
Ten months ago I was listening to my favorite podcast on my drive home, The Splendid Table . During my weekly listen on that drive I heard a call that would spark my idea for today’s recipe. There is a segment where listeners can call in to ask food science, cooking or baking questions to the host (which by the way, she ALWAYS has an answer, it’s impressive). One listener said she had an idea to make a Thai basil pesto and asked if using Thai basil, coconut oil, cashews, and chili peppers sounded too outside the box for a dish. Before Lynn could even answer I was mentally taking note.
Before I go forward with the story… a quick side note. If you have never listened to the show I highly recommend it. Anyone who loves food culture or cooking will appreciate. The host, Lynn Rossetto Kasper, is an acclaimed food writer and cooking teacher. Her wealth of knowledge is infectious.
I have been a Thai food addict for a few years now but have not attempted too many of my own dishes at home. After hearing confirmation that this ingredient combination sounded fantastic I rushed home, wrote down the four ingredients so I would not forget, and put it on my refrigerator.
Nine months later the tiny list of ingredients was still hanging by a magnet, unused, on my fridge. However; I hadn’t ever stopped thinking about attempting the dish. I actually went as far as planting and growing my own Thai basil this year. And that plant was what I was waiting for to make the dish. I wanted a big enough harvest of basil leaves so that I didn’t have to supplement from a store. (To make this dish you do not have to be as crazy as me and plant Thai basil. Almost all Asian grocery stores will carry this herb and you may even get lucky at a Wegmans or Wholefoods!)
The first time I made the pesto I knew instantly that I would be falling in love with the dish. The sauce came out creamy, spicy, and bright with flavor. My own version of this recipe had evolved to incorporate some additional ingredients such as red bell pepper to offset the heat from the chili pepper. I poured the rich pesto over rice noodles, tossed with some spicy shrimp, and cooled off the dish by topping it with fresh mango and more red bell pepper.
This meal is the Thai food enthusiast’s new best friend. It also takes under 20 minutes to cook the entire dish up.
…all for the love of the dish
- 1/2 lb of raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 7 oz rice noodle ( approx half of a box of Thai Kitchen brand)
- 1/3 cup Thai basil
- 1/4 cup coconut oil for pesto
- 1 tsp coconut oil for shrimp
- 1 tbsp chili paste for pesto (NOT sweet chili sauce. I used Sambal brand but Thai Kitchen also makes a true chili paste)
- 1 tbsp chili paste for shrimp
- 2 tbsp cashews
- 2 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1/4 bell pepper (diced) for pesto
- 1/4 bell pepper (finely sliced) for topping
- 1/4 mango (finely sliced) for topping
- Tools Needed: Blender or Food Processor
- Bring a large pot of water to boiling point. Remove the pot from heat and place rice noodles in the water. Let them soak for 8-10 minutes. Then drain.
- Blend Thai basil, 1/4 cup coconut oil, cashews, 1 tbsp chili paste, and the diced red bell pepper until creamy and smooth. Set aside.
- Heat 1 tsp of coconut oil in a medium frying pan. Add shrimp and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and chili paste and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes or until shrimp is pink all the way through.
- Add the noodles to the pan with the shrimp. Pour in the pesto and toss to coat.
- After plating, top with very finely sliced mango and bell pepper slices.
I only made this dish to serve two but feel free to double it for a family meal.